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Photo Fight: Lieberman and Graham Threaten Senate Shutdown

1:02 PM, Jun 9, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Senators Lieberman and Graham have just concluded a press conference held in response to a still unconfirmed move by the Democratic leadership in the House to strip from the supplemental appropriations bill an amendment that would bar the release of detainee photos. That amendment, the Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act, had been attached to the supplemental by a unanimous voice vote in the Senate and with the explicit support of the White House. However, as THE WEEKLY STANDARD reported last Friday, the Democratic leadership has been unable to secure the votes necessary to pass the supplemental and is moving to strip out the Graham-Lieberman amendment under pressure from House liberals.

A senior Democratic aide tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that "the House is putting the demands of the ACLU before the interests of the troops." This aide also said that Liberman and Graham "are going to attach [the amendment] to every piece of legislation that comes down the pike." And indeed as Lieberman said at the press conference this morning, "we already actually added our original legislation as an amendment to the FDA regulation of tobacco bill that's on the floor right now."

Graham went even further during the press conference and threatened to shut down the Senate if their legislation is not passed. "We're not going to do any more business in the nothing's going forward until we get this right," Graham said. Meanwhile, it may be premature for the left to declare victory. According to Fox News, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is apparently unaware of any deal between House Democrats and Pelosi. "I don't know whether an agreement has been reached," Hoyer said, and Pelosi herself has yet to weigh in on the matter, though reporters have quoted Democratic aides in an attempt to divine her position.

The Democratic aide I spoke with assured me that Lieberman and Graham "are not going to go quietly into the night" on this because failure to do so would "clearly put the troops in danger." This source added that if Pelosi has cut a deal with liberal members of her caucus, she is "defying the White House, and defying the commanders on the ground."

Indeed, Obama is being put in a tough position by a Speaker who has already been portrayed as running roughshod over the administration. If Obama, after backing a measure as critical to the safety of U.S. troops and securing the unanimous support of the Senate in favor of that measure, gets rolled by Nancy Pelosi and a bunch of liberal House Dems doing the bidding of the ACLU, the White House will not only look weak and feckless, it will have been proven to be weak and feckless.

Full transcript of the press conference after the jump...

Press Conference on Detainee Photo Release Amendment
June 9, 2009

Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-Connecticut)
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)

Thanks very much for coming today.

Senator Graham and I have returned here to discuss this ongoing battle over the release of -- of photos of treatment of detainees. As you know, President Obama overturned a decision of some of the attorneys in the Justice Department not to appeal from a lower court decision in an ACLU lawsuit that would have compelled the release of these photos.

President Obama did the right thing. He did the right thing because he knows that the release of these photos will achieve no good and will do great harm.

They will achieve no good because the behavior, the worst behavior, that may be portrayed in these photos has already been prohibited by acts of Congress -- the Detainee Treatment Act, the Military Commission Act -- and, indeed, by executive orders of President Obama.

So to release the photos is, to me, sheer voyeurism. It's -- it's a disclosure without a purpose, and it's disclosure that brings great risk.

And, of course, what's the risk? The risk is really a certainty, which we know from the past, particularly after the photos of horrid behavior at Abu Ghraib were made public, which is that those photos will go up on violent Islamist, extremist Web sites. They will be put in Al Qaida and other recruiting videos. They will lead to people entering the war against the United States, the West.

And, in our opinion, the release of these photos -- for no purpose at all, no good purpose -- will lead to the death of Americans, including, particularly, those brave Americans who serve us in the military.